YourTango Experts offer insight into what makes healthy relationships tick.
There are endless traits and behaviors that are emblematic of a healthy, fulfilling relationship. Most of us know what they are (even if we forget to practice them!), such as listening to one another, laughing together, using humor (especially during arguments), having regular sex, going on dates and so on. We've targeted 9 habits that couples with truly awesome relationships have in common. Check them out and see where you shine and where you could use some work (remember: no one is perfect):
1. You look out for the other person.
When both parties look out for one another, the results are profound, primarily because it creates a basis of trust that is the relationship's bedrock. When you know someone has your back, it gives you tremendous security and frees you from chronic thoughts of doubt and uncertainty that can otherwise plague relationships. This strong sense of trust and dedication to your partner's well-being is the greatest gift we can give to our partners.
2. You take the high road.
Let's face it. Sometimes you want to get back at your partner because he or she has hurt you. Even in the best relationships, hurt and disappointment are inevitable. The magic is in how couples manage such things. Relationships where each individual has the maturity and ability to take the long-term view and strive to treat the other well are much better off than those where partners act on each emotional impulse or every perceived infraction.
Taking the high road takes great strength and thoughtfulness. It often feels more rewarding in the moment to give in to melancholy, vindictiveness, anger or a host of other negative expressions. Taking the high road means actively putting your best foot forward—even when you would rather pout or wallow or exact revenge (even in small petty ways).
3. You know that some conflict is normal and expected.
Contrary to what some may think, a healthy relationship doesn't mean you're happy 100 percent of the time. You will argue from time to time—occasional conflict is actually healthy! It's the natural by-product of two different human beings living in close relationship with one another. Instead of just avoiding arguments, healthy couples know how to handle them when they inevitably do come up. Research shows that this knowledge has everything to do with how long-lasting your relationship will be. Damaging patterns such as one partner "pursuing" while the other is "distancing" have been shown to have a negative impact on the future of the relationship (as evidenced in a 1994 study of long-term marriages by Levenson, Carstensen, & Gottman).
4. You know how to pick your battles.
Just because conflict is normal doesn't mean you have to go out of your way to have it. Before you say anything, decide if the possible negative effect of a comment is worth saying it in the first place. A good rule of thumb: you've tried, but you just can't let it go. This can be a sign that an unresolved issue has the potential to turn into lasting resentment, and should be openly discussed.
5. You talk so the other is able to listen.
So how do you talk about the tough stuff? Healthy resolution of conflict involves honest and respectful communication, a willingness to look at your own contribution, and the ability to know if you need to take a time-out and come back to it later. If anger comes up, you may need time (20-30 minutes is usually good) to cool so you don't say something in the heat of the moment that you might later regret.
6. You feel free from retaliation or judgment.
Healthy relationships provide a feel-good atmosphere of support, encouragement, teamwork and love. This support and encouragement leads to a higher level of comfort whereby you are able to clearly express yourself without fear of retaliation or judgment.
7. You feel like yourself—your best self.
Healthy relationships align with your core beliefs, convictions and overall chosen style of life. In a healthy relationship, you never have to worry about changing yourself in order make the relationship function. You also never have to worry about losing your partner when you decide to make some changes. There's no need to be someone else, do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, or act in a certain way. You often hear yourself saying or thinking, "This relationship brings out the best in me."
8. Your quality of life is higher because you're together.
Healthy relationships improve your quality of life. Are you growing? Are you wiser? Are you more mature? Have you modified your behaviors into a more positive manner? Has your attitude and overall outlook on your life and goals improved? If you are saying yes to these questions, you are in a healthy relationship.
9. You don't have to be attached at the hip.
Trusting habits are demonstrated in healthy relationships. That means you are not going through her phone, checking his email, having to be by his side everywhere he goes in order to keep an eye on what he's doing. Instead, you are able to freely allow him/her to do whatever he/she wants to do. In return, your time is spent doing what you want to do. And if/when those two wants cross (i.e. you want to spend time with him and he wants to spend time with you)—you'll be together...and that's the bonus. You often hear yourself thinking or saying, "I trust your decision making."